Scott has got to learn to pay attention to schedules. Or maybe he just needs better friends. Actually, no, it’s probably a combination of those two factors that has led him to his current situation.
“Aw, are you sure you can’t come to babysit Cassie? No, I know it’s last minute, but – well, no, I’m sure I’ll figure something else out. Thanks anyway, Mrs. C.” Scott hung up the phone, then put his head in his hands with a groan.
“Are you sure I can’t just come with you, Daddy?” Cassie asked, bringing him out of his funk. “I can just sit in the lobby and play games on my phone. Or I can even sit in the car!”
“No, Peanut, that’s not fair to you,” Scott said, sinking off the couch to sit next to his daughter on the floor. “It’s my fault that I forgot about this big meeting we’re having. But your mom and Paxton are out of town for the week so I can’t just drop you back off, all the usual babysitters and even the emergency babysitters are all busy, and obviously Luis can’t watch you because he’ll be with me, and then Hope and Hank and Janet are out in NYC trying to not kill Tony Stark as they hash out new Accords amendments now that Jan is back, and….” Scott trailed off with a groan.
“I’m eleven now, daddy. I’m almost twelve! Did you know that when you’re twelve, you can legally stay home alone?”
“Well, that’s what the teacher said when she was offering everyone who was already twelve to come take a babysitting course!” Cassie beamed. “I’m almost there, just another three months!”
“Yeah, well, I don’t know if that would fly with Agent Woo, remember him?” They both shuddered overdramatically, before Cassie sighed.
“I know, daddy. Sorry again.”
“And again, not your fault Peanut, that’s all on me.” Scott grabbed his cell phone again and began scrolling through his contacts list. “I mean, I haven’t called everyone yet,” he narrated when Cassie peered over his shoulder. “Maybe we can find someone on this list who I know that can watch you for 2, 3 hours tops.”
And that’s when Scott saw it, a name he forgot he had in his phone, certain he had deleted it or lost it when he got his new cell. They’d hit it off at an interview before he’d had to go to prison for his big heist, and hadn’t really talked at all since then. It was such a long shot, but everyone else in his contacts had either already said no or lived way too far to make it in time or were Avengers that were doing who-knows-what. There were probably other options in his phone, but, well, it never hurt to try, so.
Holding his breath, he called Eddie Brock.
Eddie’s phone rang while he was scrolling through his Facebook feed in a half-asleep daze. Venom perked up a bit at the unknown number – they loved to take over and scare any telemarketers that called, which was why Eddie rarely answered unknown numbers anymore.
But this one looked – not too familiar, but it had a legit San Francisco area code, and something about those last four digits was ringing some sort of distant bells. So with a shrug, Eddie answered.
“H’llo?” he said through a mouth of Fruit Loops.
“Uh, hey, is this uh, is this still Eddie Brock?” the caller asked. Eddie swallowed his food, ignoring Venom as he manifested a head and started munching on the rest of the cereal, and studied the number with a confused glance for a second. The voice sounded sort of familiar, but it was not immediately recognizable, and Eddie wasn’t sure who would have his number that was unsure if it was him – he’d lost most of his old contacts when he’d broken his old phone, but he’d reprogrammed in all the numbers of important people or people he talked to daily, like Anne and his boss.
“Yeeeeah, who is this?” he finally said after realizing that the guy on the other end of the line was probably wondering what the hell was taking him so long to respond.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but uh, this is Scott Lang.”
And that made everything click into place. “Oh! Yeah, the engineer who broke into that CEO’s house and stole all the money that he’d been stealing! Yeah, how you been, dude? You’re out of jail I see – probably been out a while by now, actually, huh. What, uh, what’s up?”
“Okay so, this is going to sound super weird and I know we don’t know each other very well but you seemed like a cool dude and whatever, and even after all that LIFE Foundation stuff you still seem really awesome, but uh, anyway. I’ve got a daughter, right, but I’m an idiot and forgot to get a babysitter for like three hours while I go do this interview for my new business, and all my other regulars are busy because the universe is awful, and uh, if it’s not too much trouble and you’re willing to do it, I was wondering if you could, uh… just… watch her for like, two or three hours? Please?”
Scott rushed this all out in one breath, and it took Eddie a moment to process it. Some dude he’d interviewed once nearly 6 years ago was asking him to babysit his kid? Venom offered no insight to his problem, focusing on slurping up the remnants of their cereal.
“I’ll definitely pay you, too, and when I’m done I’d be totally down to hang out too, I mean, if you wanted to, I mean, oh god what am I even saying-”
On the other end of the line, Scott paused. “Really?”
“Sure,” Eddie said again, pushing Venom’s annoying face away as they leaned in closer. “I’m free, got nothing better to do, and you sound super stressed out man, and kids aren’t so bad. Plus I still totally respect you for that heist and exposing that scumbag, even if it was a one-time thing or whatever, so. Yeah.”
“Oh thank you thank you! I’ll give you my address, can you get here – ohhh boy, just, whenever you can? I gotta run ASAP man.”
“Not a problem,” Eddie replied, jotting down the address and grabbing his keys. “See you in a bit.”
Eddie, Venom said as Eddie plugged the address into his phone and started down the stairs of his building, what is ‘babysitting’? Why would we sit on a baby?
“Oh, uh, that’s not – we’re not literally sitting on a baby, love. We just go and watch a child, oh gosh how old even is this kid, oh boy. Well uh, we basically make sure she doesn’t die while her parents aren’t home, and then we get paid money for it.”
Hmm. Humans are weird.
Eddie arrived about five minutes after getting the call. He may have sped a little bit, but he wasn’t pulled over or anything, so it was fine.
Knocking on the door revealed Scott, dressed in a suit, smoothing down his hair and obviously trying not to look too flustered. “Okay, hi, Eddie, hi, I’m Scott, I’m sure you figured that out,” he said, extending his hand. Eddie took it and shook it briefly as Scott continued on. “So Cassie is pretty chill, man, don’t worry about a thing, there’s chicken nuggets in the fridge for you guys to eat and you can also have whatever else you want, and don’t worry about feeding Charlie Ben-Ant-e – wait – Cassie where’s Charlie Ben-Ant-e?!”
“Uhhhh… I don’t see him Daddy!” Eddie heard a girl call. She appeared in the doorway, and Eddie supposed this must be Cassie. She looked between ten and twelve, which, okay, that was definitely manageable. “But I’m sure it’ll be fine, he usually doesn’t start his routine for a while anyway.”
“Okay so don’t worry about Charlie Ben-Ant-e at all then,” Scott said to Eddie. “Also this is Cassie, Cassie this is Eddie, thank you again for watching her so last minute for me like this man, I really really owe you one, but I gotta go, bye Cassie be good-” Scott kissed his daughter on the head – “thanks again Eddie, I’ll see you in a few hours!” And Scott was off, running down the road to what Eddie supposed was his car. Well, then.
Eddie turned to Cassie who was looking at him intently. “Uh,” he said. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. She was still watching him. “Uh, hi.”
“Hi,” she said, still studying him, before grinning up at him and asking, “So you interviewed my Daddy before?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, back when, you know, he was arrested and whatever.” Eddie mentally smacked himself. That is probably not what you should say to kids.
But Cassie surprised him. “Yeah, he’s my hero,” she told him. “I think it was good that he tried to get that money back to the people it belonged to, even if he didn’t do it the right way. But he tried! And when I got to see him again after he got out of jail, I got him this trophy to show him how much I loved him!” And she triumphantly held up a cheap trophy.
“World’s Greatest Grandma?” Eddie asked, squinting at the writing on it. Cassie looked at the trophy then giggled.
“Yeah, it was the only one they had left, but now it’s like our secret joke,” she told him.
Eddie I like this child, Venom said, and Eddie couldn’t help but agree.
Eddie was cool, Cassie decided, even if she heard him muttering to himself every now and then when he thought she couldn’t hear. Maybe he was like some of her friends from school, who talked to themselves to keep on track or reassure themselves. There was nothing wrong with that, and she didn’t want to make him feel bad about himself by pointing it out.
But he was pretty funny too. He told her stories about being a reporter, and made lots of jokes like her dad, and grinned when he munched down on some chocolate with her. He asked her questions too, about what she liked and wanted to do, and when she said that maybe she would be famous someday he chuckled and said that she should think of all his questions as a practice interview. She wouldn’t mind having him as a babysitter again, she decided.
But that’s when Charlie Ben-Ant-e decided to make an appearance.
Her daddy had named the ant after a drummer whose name allowed for the ant pun of all his favorite ants. This was the same ant that had fooled the FBI when her dad had to help Hope and Mr. Pym stop the Ghost and save Hope’s mom.
Cassie had been told to keep the giant pet ants a secret from her friends, because people didn’t usually like ants anyway, and the giant ants were kind of scary. Cassie thought they were cute and that those people were dummies, but whatever. Her pet ant Ant-ony Junior lived with her and her mom and Jim Paxton, and it had learned to be very good about hiding when she or the grownups had friends over.
But Charlie Ben-Ant-e had not yet learned this. It still liked to stick to its usual routine, which was why her dad only had over his friends who knew he was Ant-Man, or had other people over when Charlie was sleeping.
So, sure, when Scott had left, Charlie hadn’t been around. That wasn’t unusual – lately he’d taken to wandering the backyard, or napping under beds. But of course, he was still a creature of habit, especially when it came to his food, and the meeting seemed to be running a little longer than expected.
So when Cassie went into the kitchen to grab chocolate milk for her and Eddie, she almost jumped when she saw Charlie Ben-Ant-e. He was scuffling at the fridge door, and Cassie rushed over to grab his designated food from the cabinet instead.
“Here, Charlie,” she said, filling his food bowl more than she should have, but hoping it would distract him long enough for her dad to come home and Eddie to leave. She liked Eddie, and she didn’t want this to scare him away. That would suck.
She grabbed the chocolate milk and some cups and ran back into the living room, where Eddie was looking past her toward the kitchen with curiosity.
“I was just feeding Charlie Ben-Ant-e,” Cassie explained before Eddie could ask. “Hopefully he won’t bother us.”
“That’s okay,” Eddie said. “Is he like, your dog? Cat?”
“Uh, yep!” Eddie totally didn’t believe her, but he shrugged and let it go.
So they sat for a while, sipping their chocolate milk and watching Phineas and Ferb reruns, when Charlie Ben-Ant-e decided to scuttle on by and head toward the electronic drum set.
“Uh,” Eddie said, eyes wide as he did a double take. “Uh, what…. is that Charlie Ben-Ant-e?”
Cassie grinned guiltily, and shrugged, trying her best to look innocent. “Maaaaybe…”
Eddie was still watching as the ant put on the headset and started drumming. “Ben-Ant-e,” he repeated, “Ben-Ant-e. Well. That. That explains the name pun, I guess.”
Cassie looked up at him, slightly concerned. “Are you… going to run away? Or call the police? Please don’t,” she added as an afterthought. “He’s really harmless. We trained him to play the drums!”
“I’m more… confused,” Eddie said slowly, eyes still on the ant. “How did – what – like, how does he exist? And no,” Eddie continued, whispering to himself, “we cannot eat it, stop it Vee.”
And Cassie blurted, “I’ll tell you how we have him if you tell me who Vee is that you’re talking too.”
“Uh,” said Eddie, and then her dad decided that this was the time to come home.
“Uh,” said Scott, eyes going from Eddie to Cassie to Charlie Ben-Ant-e back to Cassie then back to Eddie. “Uh.”
“Uh,” Eddie said again. Cassie decided that sometimes grown men were idiots.
“My dad is Ant-Man,” Cassie blurted, because there was too much tension now and she couldn’t stand it.
“Cassie!” her dad hissed, and she guessed he was upset that she told his secret identity. But what else was she supposed to do? Eddie had already seen Charlie Ben-Ant-e, and he wasn’t running off screaming yet, so maybe he could be a friend.
“What? Oh, okay, that’s, okay,” Eddie said. “So, uh, you were at that airport battle during that Avengers thing, that was crazy, I did a report on that, but uh, are you like an official Avenger then?”
“You’re taking this way better than some people, but whyyyyy does that matter?” Scott shot back, recovering from Cassie’s betrayal. Cassie was curious too, but Eddie did say he was a reporter, so maybe it was his natural reporter curiosity.
“Well, uh, um, uh, I don’t know if you heard about the uh, shhh, the whole LIFE Foundation rocket and human testing thing just a few months ago?”
“Yeaaahhhhhh, what does that have to do with anything?”
“So, they, uh, they had actually brought back these alien symbiotes and were experimenting with them using people, and well, uh, oh god Vee, listen one of the aliens may or may not be a friend but you won’t arrest us for that right?”
“Dude I don’t think I have jurisdiction to arrest you anyway, but I mean, like, what is even going on.”
“Oh god,” Eddie said again, and that’s when a weird black slime tentacle thing branched out of his shoulder, which formed a head with white eyes and very sharp teeth.
“Hello,” it said, and Eddie put his head in his hands.
“What the he-e-eck,” Scott said, stumbling backwards.
The black goo thing sprouting from Eddie grinned. “We are Venom,” it – they? – explained.
Cassie thought that Venom looked kind of cute in a weird way, and so she voiced her thoughts. “You’re kinda cute, in a weird way.”
Venom swung its head toward her, a long tongue sticking out of its mouth. “Cute? Eddie, tell the child we are not cute! We strike fear into bad guys!”
“I mean you are kinda cute when you’re just a floating head, Vee,” Eddie said, seeming to have overcome the shock of everything going on. Venom turned back to Eddie with a look of betrayal, and Cassie thought that they must be inside Eddie’s head or something because Eddie rolled his eyes at an unspoken jab and muttered, “yes you are you drama queen.”
“Okay, okay, let’s back up for a minute, yeah?” Scott said, holding up his hands. “Maybe let’s try this again. Hi, I’m Scott Lang, that’s my daughter Cassie, I’m also Ant-Man though that’s usually only when Hank really needs me right now, and we may have used our grow and shrink technology to make a very big ant named Charlie Ben-Ant-e that plays the drums and acted as a decoy for me when I was on house arrest. Your turn.”
Eddie blinked. “Well, uh. I’m Eddie Brock, and this is Venom but I call them Vee, and together we are also Venom. We met after I was disgraced for trying to expose Carlton Drake after Drake’s rocket crashed and brought their race here, and then LIFE was doing all sorts of unethical experiments on symbiotes and humans, but I broke in and we accidentally bonded and then we went out and beat up Drake and another evil symbiote and maybe ate some people at one point, and now we just try and keep to ourselves except for some occasional late night runs where we, uh, well.” Eddie paused, looking at Cassie with what she thinks is concern and nervousness.
“We eat the heads of bad guys,” Venom said plainly, and yeah, Cassie could see why Eddie didn’t want to say that out loud.
“You eat people?!” Scott cried. Eddie winced.
“Only bad guys!” he emphasized. “Plus, look, Vee needs some compound from humans, one that’s especially abundant in brains, in order to live or else they’ll start eating my organs and then we’ll both die and that’s not that fun.”
“Phenethylamine,” Venom added, “is what we need. It is also found in chocolate and there are supplements but they aren’t as good as fresh stuff. It is in many animal brains as well, such as the rats and raccoons and even deer we sometimes eat, but we feel that it is not bad to eat other bad people who would be released from prison, free to hurt more people again.”
“So you’re trying to be a hero too?” Cassie asked.
“Sure, yes, we are,” Eddie and Venom said together, and Cassie found that a little creepy but also super cool.
“Well,” her dad said, “that, uh. Sure is something. What the hell are the odds that two superheroes meet because one asked the other to babysit his daughter?”
“Like zero,” Eddie replied. Then: “Seriously though you won’t tell anyone right?”
Scott opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. “Well. I mean. You could always tell them yourself?”
Eddie leveled a very unimpressed stare at her dad, and Cassie couldn’t help but ask, “You want to tell Hope and her parents, daddy?”
“And maybe whatever’s left of the Avengers,” Scott admitted. “Not that I don’t believe you or trust you or anything! But like, more as a… like, you could join us? That’d be cool, right?”
Eddie blinked, and it’s Venom who answered. “We will…think about it,” they said. “For now, we would appreciate if you tell no one, or we might eat your head.”
“Please don’t eat my daddy’s head,” Cassie said at the same time Eddie shouted, “No, Vee, we aren’t eating a hero’s head!” They shared a look, and Eddie continued, “Cassie would be very sad if you ate her dad’s head.”
“Oh. That’s not good. We like Cassie,” Venom said with a bit of a purr, and Cassie giggled.
“Well,” Scott said, “thanks for, for not eating my brain I guess. And, hey, you have my number – let me know if you ever want to do that hero meet-and-greet thing, I’m serious.”
“Sure, I mean, like we said, we’ll think about it,” Eddie replied.
“Yeah, cool, cool, man. I guess, uh. I guess I’ll see you around?”
Eddie and Venom grinned. “Sure,” was the simple reply.
“Great,” Scott said. He looked back to Cassie and then back to Eddie. “And uh, if you’re okay with it – I mean – I’d be okay with you babysitting Cassie still, I mean only if you want to…”
Eddie cut Scott off with a laugh. “Sure, man, we’d love to. See you around, man; bye, Cassie!”
And Cassie watched, still fascinated, as Venom melded back into Eddie and they walked out toward their motorcycle before driving away.
“He was like, the best babysitter ever daddy,” Cassie proclaimed, grinning up at her dad. “I liked him, and Venom too!”
“He certainly was….something,” Scott replied, scratching the back of his neck. “And I’m sure we’ll see him again, sweetie. Now, should we get Charlie Ben-Ant-e some more food or what?”